Situated between Nevada and California, near the crest of the Sierra Mountains, Lake Tahoe is one of the deepest and clearest lakes in the world, and only one of two EPA-designated "Outstanding National Resources Waters" in the western United States. Due to increasing human activities and urban development around the lake, however, its famed clarity, which once measured 100 feet deep, has declined 30% since 1968. Further, 75% of the region's environmental standards, including water quality and air quality standards, have not been achieved. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency's new plan to allow the construction of 138 piers and the placement of several thousand buoys in Lake Tahoe's shorezone would only cause more harm to the Lake's fragile environment. These additional shorezone structures would impede the public's recreational access to the shorezone, degrade the lake's natural scenic beauty, and result in over 62,000 additional motorized boat trips on the lake per year, leading to more pollution of the lake's waters and further declines in lake clarity.
This lawsuit challenges TRPA's plan to dramatically increase shorezone development, in violation of the agency's mandate to protect and restore Lake Tahoe's natural beauty and health.
The agency also failed to perform adequate environmental studies of the new development, and relied on an unformulated and undefined "Blue Boating Program" to offset the increased pollution. Without further specifics, however, the Blue Boating Program cannot assure that the lake's clarity will not suffer further damage and that environmental standards will be met. This lawsuit seeks to stop additional shorezone development until TRPA can show that its plan will achieve the region's standards.
In September of 2009, a federal district court judge issued an injunction halting construction of new piers, boat ramps and other boat facilities, and placement of new buoys along the Lake Tahoe shoreline, pending resolution of the lawsuit.
Earthjustice is suing on behalf of conservationists.
Nevada governor Brian Sandoval signed SB 229 into law, repealing legislation that would have withdrawn the state of Nevada from the Lake Tahoe bi-state Compact, a federally approved agreement intended to provide regional protection of the Lake’s stunning natural features. The law, however, severely weakens the Tahoe Regional Protection Agency’s authority to protect Lake Tahoe by requiring that it consider economic factors in land-use planning, thereby giving development and environmental protection of the Lake equal weight.
Earthjustice filed a lawsuit, representing the Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore, challenging a new regional plan released by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The plan would hand off development decisions to local municipalities and weaken pollution control. It also fails to meet previously agreed-upon standards by allowing excessive new development, doubling building height limits, and failing to track runoff into the lake.